NFL capsules: Week 3



“Thursday Night Football” kicks off Week 3 with two teams playing surprisingly well to start the year. The Panthers (2-0 SU and ATS) visit the Texans (1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS) with the road team laying 7.5, up from the opening number of 4.5. The Panthers are coming off one of the more impressive performances of last week. They dominated the Saints, outgaining them 383-128 and holding them to 80 yards passing, even with the Saints in catch-up mode from the start. Christian McCaffrey briefly exited the game with an apparent calf injury, but he returned and finished the game. The Texans were not as fortunate with injury luck. Tyrod Taylor was 10-for-11 passing and had the Texans leading 14-7 as two-touchdown underdogs before leaving with a hamstring injury. Taylor is questionable, leaving rookie Davis Mills poised to perhaps make his first start. The total has come down from 44 to 42.5 with the Texans’ uncertainty at quarterback.


The Cardinals (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) come off a wild victory over the Vikings and look for a 3-0 start as they visit the Jaguars (0-2 SU and ATS). The Cards have been pegged as 7.5-point favorites, up from 2.5 on the lookahead line. Despite piling up nearly 500 yards of offense, they needed a 37-yard Vikings field goal to sail wide to secure the victory last week. They gained 8 yards per play on offense but allowed 7 per play on defense. The Jaguars took an early 7-0 lead on the Broncos but didn’t score again until late in the game on a kickoff return, losing 23-13 and failing to crack 200 yards of offense. Trevor Lawrence tossed three interceptions in his debut, then threw for only 118 yards in his second start, leading the Jaguars to an ugly 3.8 yards per play last week. The total is 52.


The Colts (0-2 SU, 1-1 ATS) look to avoid an 0-3 start as they play a crucial early-season AFC South game in Tennessee against the Titans (1-1 SU and ATS). It has been a nightmare start for the Colts, who are already 0-2 at home and might be without their starting quarterback as Carson Wentz is dealing with injuries to both ankles. The Colts were favored by a point on the lookahead line, but their uncertainty at quarterback has helped make the Titans 5-point favorites. The Titans won in overtime at Seattle, erasing a late 14-point deficit as they accumulated 532 yards of offense and 212 yards on the ground. If Wentz can’t play, second-year quarterback Jacob Eason will get the nod for his first career start. The total is 50.5.


Washington (1-1 SU and ATS) will have some extra time to rest and prepare for the Bills (1-1 SU and ATS) after Thursday night’s thrilling win over the Giants. Washington kicked a game-winning field goal with no time left after the Giants were called for offsides on the first attempt. Washington’s highly regarded defense did allow the Giants to gain 6 yards per play and nearly 400 yards of offense. Taylor Heinicke orchestrated that final drive and will continue to start at quarterback in place of the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills got back on track in Week 2, shutting out the Dolphins 35-0 a week after an ugly loss to the Steelers. The Bills held the Dolphins to 216 yards of offense and only 3.1 yards per play, knocking quarterback Tua Tagovailoa out of the game in the first quarter. The lookahead line was 7, but the market was impressed with the Bills on Sunday and they are now favored by 9.5. The total is 45.5, down from the opening number of 48.


It’s not Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady anymore, but it is an interesting matchup of 1-1 teams as the Patriots (1-1 SU and ATS) host the Saints (1-1 SU and ATS). The Patriots were favored by 7 on the lookahead line, likely due in large part to the Saints being displaced from New Orleans because of Hurricane Ida. The Saints’ strong Week 1 showing has carried enough weight in the market to overshadow a Week 2 dud, as this line is now only 3. The Saints were dominated in every facet of the game last week against the Panthers, failing to eclipse the 100-yard mark until late in the third quarter. Star running back Alvin Kamara was held to 5 yards rushing, and the Saints were outgained by 250 yards and averaged just 3 yards per play. The Patriots duped Zach Wilson into throwing four interceptions and held the Jets to six points. Turnover-prone Jameis Winston facing Bill Belichick will be an interesting matchup. The total is 43, down from the opener of 47.5.


A pair of 1-1 teams square off looking to bounce back from heartbreaking defeats. The Chargers (1-1 SU and ATS) lost 20-17 to the Cowboys on a field goal as time expired, allowing nearly 200 yards rushing. The Chargers have played the Chiefs well in recent years, losing in overtime in Week 2 last year, then winning in Week 17, though the Chiefs rested many starters. The Chiefs (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) continue to burn a hole in the wallets of their backers, now failing to cover in 10 of their last 11 regular-season games. They allowed 481 yards to the Ravens, including 251 on the ground, and blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead, losing despite averaging over 8 yards per play. The line opened at 7 and is now at 6.5, with the total at a robust 55.5. The Chiefs off a loss is perhaps an angle that will tempt bettors, though at some point, consistently failing to cover spreads will surely deter Chiefs action. Both teams are looking up in the standings at the first-place Raiders and Broncos.


The Falcons (0-2 SU and ATS) visit the Giants (0-2 SU, 1-1 ATS) in a game that will leave the losers in early peril. The Giants have extra time to rest and plenty of time to stew over a game they let get away Thursday night against Washington. The Falcons fought back from a big deficit against the heavily favored Bucs, cutting the lead to three entering the fourth quarter, before a pair of interceptions run back for touchdowns led to a 48-25 final. Despite the blowout loss, the Falcons actually outgained the Bucs. The Giants are 3.5-point favorites, up a point from the lookahead line off their strong performance Thursday. Star running back Saquon Barkley is still looking to get on track coming back from injury. He was listed as questionable for the first two weeks and has only 83 rushing yards so far. The total has held steady at 48.


Bears fans might finally get their wish and see the much-anticipated starting debut of Justin Fields. Andy Dalton’s status is undecided as he deals with a knee injury that is not believed to be serious. The Bears (1-1 SU and ATS) beat the Bengals on Sunday despite producing only 206 yards of offense and averaging a meager 3.4 yards per play. They did, however, force four turnovers and hang on to win 20-17 after leading 20-3 in the fourth quarter. The Browns (1-1 SU and ATS) failed to cover the big number against the Texans and even trailed 14-7 before knocking Tyrod Taylor out of the game and eventually winning by 10. Baker Mayfield briefly left the game but returned and appears on track to play. The Browns are 7.5-point favorites, and it will be interesting to see how the market reacts if Fields starts. The total is 46.5.


Both teams followed opening wins with losses in Week 2. The Bengals (1-1 SU and ATS) fell to the Bears 20-17 despite holding them to 204 yards. Four turnovers were too much to overcome for the Bengals, who fought back from a 20-3 fourth-quarter deficit to push on some early numbers. Joe Burrow remarkably threw interceptions on three consecutive passes. The Steelers (1-1 SU and ATS) won as 6.5-point dogs in Week 1, then lost as 6-point favorites in Week 2. The offense struggled against the Bills, and Pittsburgh won in large part due to a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, but then mustered only 17 points against a Raiders team that allowed 30 points per game last season. The Steelers are 5-point favorites and have dominated the Bengals in recent years. But they were victims of one of the bigger upsets of 2020, losing to the Bengals as 14-point favorites late last year on “Monday Night Football.” The total is down from 47 to 44.5 after both teams struggled offensively last week.


The Raiders (2-0 SU and ATS) have recorded both victories as underdogs and opened as 1-point home dogs in this one. The Dolphins (1-1 SU and ATS) got blown out by the Bills 35-0 at home. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa exited early due to a rib injury and is listed as questionable. The Dolphins were held to 216 yards as backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett played most of the game. The Raiders’ impressive victories, coupled with the uncertainty for the Dolphins at quarterback, has shifted this line to the Raiders being favored by 4.5. Raiders running back Josh Jacobs was questionable for Week 1 and ended up playing, but he missed Week 2 and will be questionable for Sunday. The total is 45, down from the 46.5 opener.


In one of the more dramatic line movements we will see, this opened at 5.5 on the lookahead line, but the Broncos’ dominance (2-0 SU and ATS) coupled with the Jets’ futility (0-2 SU and ATS) has driven this line all the way up to 11. Teddy Bridgewater takes on his former team, making his home debut for the Broncos. The Broncos are 18-3 in home openers over the last 21 years and are coming off two wins and covers, both as road favorites. The Jets were held to six points Sunday against the Patriots as rookie Zach Wilson threw four interceptions. The Jets lost 25-6 but did outgain the Patriots 336-260 despite losing the turnover battle 4-0. Vic Fangio against a rookie quarterback may be a matchup that will entice survivor players. The total is the lowest on the board at 41.5.


The Ravens (1-1 SU and ATS) avoided a disastrous 0-2 start with a late comeback against the Chiefs. They ran the ball for 251 yards, erasing an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit, which impressed the market enough to bump the opening line of 7.5 up to 9. The Lions (1-1 SU and ATS) scored an early touchdown to go up 7-0 Monday night against the heavily favored Packers and even led 17-14 at the half. But the Packers outscored the Lions 21-0 in the second half and won going away. The Lions did outgain the Packers and averaged over 6 yards per play. The total is 49.5. The Ravens have a handful of key injuries to watch, including their top two corners, Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith.


Both teams look to rebound after heartbreaking last-second defeats. The Vikings (0-2 SU, 1-1 ATS) led the Cardinals 20-7, but a missed extra point and then a missed 37-yard field goal in the final seconds led to a second consecutive devastating defeat. The Vikings surrendered 474 yards, allowing 8 yards per play. The offense, however, produced 414 yards on 7 yards per play. Dalvin Cook left the game briefly before returning and is reportedly dealing with a sore ankle. The Seahawks squandered a 14-point fourth-quarter lead against the Titans, getting gashed for 532 yards, including 212 rushing yards. The Seahawks off the OT loss are now slight 1.5-point favorites after opening as 1-point dogs. The total is up to 55.5 after both teams scored and allowed over 30 points in Week 2.


The marquee game of the weekend features the first big test for the Rams in the Matthew Stafford era. The Rams (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) held off the Colts 27-24 but failed to cover the closing number of 3.5, averaging 6.2 yards per play and compiling 371 yards of offense. Running back Darrell Henderson Jr. left the game with a rib injury and is questionable this week. The Bucs (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) have been big favorites in their first two games. But they needed a last-second field goal to beat Dallas and turned a three-point fourth-quarter lead into a 23-point victory over the Falcons thanks to a couple of defensive touchdowns. The Rams won 27-24 in Tampa Bay last year on “Monday Night Football” as 4.5-point underdogs. The Rams are 1-point favorites, and we’ve seen big movement on the total, up from 50.5 to 54.


Recent trips to California have not gone well for the Packers (1-1 SU and ATS). In 2019 they lost just three games in the regular season, but two were in California to the 49ers and Chargers by a combined 46 points. The Packers visited the 49ers in the postseason as well and were blown out again. These teams met last year in November, but the 49ers were missing a big chunk of their team due to injuries and a massive COVID-19 outbreak. The 49ers (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) defeated the Eagles 17-11 last week but were held to 4.5 yards per play and allowed the Eagles to rush for 151 yards. The line opened 49ers by 4.5 but was bet down to 3.5 after the Packers’ convincing victory over the Lions on Monday night. The total opened at 44.5 is now 47.5.


Week 3 concludes with a pivotal NFC East battle. The Cowboys (1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS) are favored by 4 points in their first home game, down from the opening number of 6. They defeated the Chargers with a field goal on the final play, averaging 7 yards per play and piling up 198 yards on the ground. The Eagles (1-1 SU and ATS) held the 49ers to 4.5 yards per play but lost 17-11. These teams split their games last year, each winning comfortably at home. This will potentially be a crucial game in determining the division champion, as these teams have combined to win four of the last five division titles. The total opened at 49.5 and now sits at 51.5.

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